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Mayes v. Dowling

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

August 3, 2018

LAWRENCE MAYES, Petitioner,
v.
JANET DOWLING, Warden,[1] Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          GREGORY K. FRIZZELL, CHIEF JUDGE

         Before the Court is Lawrence Mayes' 28 U.S.C. § 2241 habeas corpus petition (Dkt. 1). Also before the Court is his motion seeking an answer from Respondent (Dkt. 7). Mayes challenges the execution of his state sentence, and in particular, the denial of earned credits. Dkt. 1 at 6. For the reasons discussed below, Mayes must show cause why the petition should not be summarily dismissed for failure to raise a federal claim.

         I. Background

         Mayes was convicted of armed robbery after five or more felonies in violation of Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 801. See Dkt. 1 at 37; Oklahoma County District Court Case No. CF-2003-3169.[2]The state court sentenced him to 45 years imprisonment. Id. Mayes appealed, and on September 26, 2006, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA) reduced the sentence to 35 years. Id. at 39.

         Ten years later, Mayes filed a grievance alleging prison officials wrongfully denied him earned credits. See Dkt. 1 at 2, 21-23. Mayes argued, as he does here, that the armed robbery statute (Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 801) entitles him to earn good-time credits after serving ten years in prison. Id. Warden Dowling denied relief, in part. Id. at 17. She explained that under Oklahoma law, “offenders serving a sentence for [armed robbery] … are eligible to earn credits during the first 85% of the sentence; however, said credits will not be applied towards the sentence until the offender has served 85% of said sentence.” Id. at 17. She assured Mayes his earned credits would be applied to his sentence once he reached the “85% date.” Id.

         Mayes filed a “Motion for Judicial Review” in state court in 2017. Id. at 29. He argued the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) was revoking his earned credits and refusing to adhere to Oklahoma law. Id. at 29; Motion filed March 13, 2017 in Oklahoma County Case No. CV-2017-522.[3] The state court dismissed the action because he failed to “identif[y] any disciplinary proceeding for which he seeks review” under Okla. Stat. tit. 57, § 564.1C. Dkt. 1 at 31. Mayes appealed, and the OCCA affirmed the decision on May 21, 2018. Id. at 32.

         Mayes filed the § 2241 petition (Dkt. 1) on June 4, 2018. He asserts the DOC is violating his due process rights by refusing to deduct earned credits from his sentence pursuant to the robbery statute, Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 801. See Dkt. 1 at 6. Thereafter, Mayes filed a Motion for Show Cause Order (Dkt. 7), which seeks a responsive pleading from the Warden.

         II. Analysis

         Mayes' petition is governed by Habeas Corpus Rule[4] 4 and 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Habeas Corpus Rule 4 requires a sua sponte review of habeas petitions. “If it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief … the judge must dismiss the petition.” Habeas Corpus Rule 4. “If the petition is not dismissed, the judge must order the respondent to file an answer….” Id.

         To survive initial review under § 2241, a petitioner must allege facts showing the execution of his state sentence violates federal law. See 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3) (relief is available where the petitioner “is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States”); Yellowbear v. Wyo. Att'y Gen., 525 F.3d 921, 924 (10th Cir. 2008) (“Section ... 2241 is a vehicle for ... attacking the execution of a sentence.”); Bradshaw v. Story, 86 F.3d 164, 166 (10th Cir. 1996) (“A petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 attacks the execution of a sentence rather than its validity....”). Mayes contends the DOC and Warden Dowling are violating federal law by refusing to award earned credits under the Oklahoma armed robbery statute, Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 801. See Dkt. 1 at 6. According to Mayes, the statute creates a federally recognized liberty interest in earned credits, and the denial of such credits violates his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. See Dkt. 7 at 1.

         The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees due process “when a person is to be deprived of life, liberty, or property.” Templeman v. Gunter, 16 F.3d 367, 369 (10th Cir. 1994). State statutes may give rise to a federal liberty interest, and therefore a due process violation, where the plain language places “substantive limitations on official discretion.” Montero v. Meyer, 13 F.3d 1444, 1448 (10th Cir. 1994) (quoting Kentucky Dep't of Corrections v. Thompson, 490 U.S. 454, 461 (1989)). In the context of prison credits, courts look to whether a state statute “makes awards of earned time mandatory” or discretionary. Templeman v. Gunter, 16 F.3d 370 (analyzing denial of earned credits under § 2241). Cf Boutwell v. Keating, 399 F.3d 1203, 1213 (10th Cir. 2005) (recognizing that a state statute may “create a liberty interest when the statute's language and structure sufficiently limits the discretion of a parole board.”).

         The Oklahoma armed robbery statute does not mandate an award of earned credits. It merely prevents repeat offenders from earning credits during the first ten years in prison:

Upon conviction [for armed robbery], any person guilty of three separate and distinct felonies, in violation of this section shall suffer punishment by imprisonment … for a period of time of not less than ten (10) years …. The sentence imposed upon such person shall not be reduced to less than ten (10) calendar years, nor suspended, nor shall any person be eligible for probation or parole or receive any deduction from his sentence for good conduct until he shall have served ten (10) calendar years of such sentence.

Okla. Stat. tit. 21, ยง 801 (emphasis added). Therefore, the Respondents did not violate Mayes' due process rights ...


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